Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to: parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Back to Parsha Homepage Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


Vol. 15   No. 8

l'iluy Nishmas
R' Eliyahu ben R' Yerechmiel Moshe z"l
by his family
in honour of his 19th Yohrzeit
on the 14th Kislev

Parshas Vayishlach

Ya'akov's Fear
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

'Ya'akov was afraid' that he would be killed, Rashi explains, and 'he was distressed' at the prospect of killing others. Why was he afraid? Had G-d not promised him that he would protect him, when, during his dream with the ladder, he told him "and I will guard you wherever you go. Indeed He did, Rashi explains, commenting on the words "I have become small from all the kindness " (a few Pesukim later). But Ya'akov was afraid that his sins had rendered those promises null and void. It is obvious that G-d's promises are made on the assumption that the recipient does not nullify them by deteriorating to the point that he is no longer worthy of whatever it is that He promised. Resha'im tend to think that G-d is indebted to them, even when He has not issued them promises. Tzadikim, on the other hand, are always afraid that, even if He has. Just as David Hamelech said in Tehilim "What can answer Hashem, all His kindnesses are still on me (to begin repaying)". In particular, the commentaries to the Mitzvah of Kibud Av va'Eim and living in Eretz Yisrael, both of which he had been lax, whereas Eisav had merited to fulfill them.

*

That explanation would be acceptable, says the K'li Yakar, if G-d had assured Ya'akov of protection on the occasion that we cited earlier. The trouble is that He promised him a second time that he would protect him, and that promise He made just a few days earlier, before Ya'akov left Lavan's house, when He said "Return to the land of your fathers and I will be with you". Is it feasible to say, asks the K'li Yakar, that in such a short space of time, Ya'akov had performed such terrible sins as to have already negated that promise? Certainly, nothing had changed with regard to the two Mitzvos that we just cited, yet G-d had repeated His promise?

*

To solve the original problem, the K'li Yakar therefore turns to a Gemara in Sotah (41b), where R. Elazar says that someone who flatters his friend will eventually fall into his hands. Here too, he says, Ya'akov realized that he had done wrong in flattering Eisav, by referring to him as his master and to himself as Eisav's servant . Indeed, the Medrash takes Ya'akov to task for having done just that (see first two Parshah Pearls). And it was due to the Gemara in Sotah that Ya'akov was afraid, on the one hand, that he would fall into Eisav's hands. On the other hand however, knowing that he had accumulated many merits which would likely save him from such a terrible fate, he was distressed in the knowledge that all his merits would become used up on this one issue (as the Ramban explains on the word "Katonti").

*

Granted, Chazal permit flattering Resha'im there where the need arises, but that is only assuming that one was not responsible for having created the need to do so in the first place. In this case, where it was Ya'akov himself who aroused Eisav to attack him, that would certainly not be the case. Just as the Ramban, citing a Medrash, explains, when he describes Ya'akov as grabbing a sleeping dog by its ears.

This explanation resolves our original problem, inasmuch as Ya'akov had only just perpetrated the sin in question, thereby jeopardizing even G-d's second promise that He had made only days earlier.

*

The above explanation will also serve to refute the Ra'am's question cited by the Torah Temimah, from the Gemara in Shabbos 55b, which states that G-d never reneged on a promise for the good, and it is only promises to do 'bad' that He rescinds in the event that one improves one's ways.

According to the K'li Yakar's explanation however, that principle would not apply here, seeing as Ya'akov's sin was self-destructive, automatically negating the promise, as we explained. It can be compared to G-d placing a large sum of money in one's pocket, and the recipient then cutting a hole in the pocket.

*

The K'li Yakar also offers a second (see above) explanation to the double expression "And Ya'akov was afraid and he was distressed".

Referring to the end of Toldos, where Eisav stated that he would kill Ya'akov only after Yitzchak died, Ya'akov assumed that, seeing as he was now attacking him with four hundred men, his father must have died. Hence he felt distressed.

And with this same idea, he explains why Ya'akov referred to Hashem here as "the G-d of Yitzchak" (32:10), an expression that one avoids using during the lifetime of Tzadikim (see Rashi). But the problem disappears if Ya'akov believed that Yitzchak was no longer alive.

***

Parshah Pearls

A Shadow of Doubt

"And he commanded them saying 'So you shall say to my master Eisav" (32:5).

Because he called Eisav his master he was punished, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. 'I told you that the younger one will serve the older one', said Hashem, 'and you called him 'my master', not once, but eight times! By your life, eight kings from Eisav will rule in Edom, before a king rules over Yisrael!' And that is why the Torah writes (at the end of the Parshah) "And theseare the kings who ruled in Edom before a king rules over Yisrael".

*

In the Footsteps of the Avos

""So says your servant Ya'akov " (Ibid).

The Medrash relates that in a letter to the Roman Emperor Antoninus, Rebbi referred to himself as 'his servant'. What was good for Ya'akov was also good for him, he explained.

The commentaries however, query this. They cite Chazal who take Ya'akov to task for referring to Eisav so many times (see pervious pearl).

*

The Even ha'Azel however, dismisses the question with the principle 'The deeds of the fathers is a sign for the children'. Ya'akov Avinu should not have called Eisav his master. Halevai he hadn't! But now that he did, Eisav's supremacy has become a reality, and we are bound to follow suite, as Rebbi pointed out.

*

Afraid & Troubled

"And Ya'akov was afraid and he was troubled" (32:7).

See Rashi.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. ascribes Ya'akov's fear to the fact that Eisav possessed two merits that he did not: 1. The Mitzvah of Kibud Av; and 2. the Mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. That explains why he was afraid. And why was he troubled?

He was troubled he says, for being afraid (which he sensed was not right).

Alternatively, he remembered what Eisav had original said about killing him only after his father dies. So now that he was coming to attack him, he was troubled because, he figured that his father must have died.

*

Why They Killed Sh'chem

"And it was on the third day, when they were in pain, that the two sons of Ya'akov, Shimon and Levi took their swords and they came upon the unsuspecting city, and they slayed all the males" (34:25).

If Chamor and Sh'chem deserved the death-penalty, what did the rest of the town do to deserve it, asks the Rosh?

And he cites the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (9:10), who rules that one ben No'ach who sees another ben No'ach transgressing one of the seven Noachide Mitzvos and does not have him killed in Beis-Din is himself guilty of the death penalty. And his source is this Parshah.

Consequently, all the inhabitants of Sh'chem, who witnessed Sh'chem's abduction of Dinah (an act of theft) and did nothing about it, were Chayav Miysah.

*

On the Third Day

Ibid.

Why on the third day, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T?

Rejecting the suggestion (accepted by some commentaries) that the pain is the most intense on the third day, they attribute it to the fact that it was not possible to circumcise all the males in Sh'chem in one, or even on two, days, and it was only on the third day, when the job was complete, that Shimon and Levi put their plan into action.

*

Devorah's the Name

And Devorah, Rivkah's wet-nurse died, and she was buried below Beis-El below the plateau, and he called it Alon bachus" (35:8).

According to the Medrash cited by the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. the 'date-palm underneath which Devorah the prophetess sat was synonymous with Alon Bachus.

*

Moving Bilhah's Bed

"And he (Reuven) lay with Bilhah, his father's concubine " (35:22).

See Rashi.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cites some who translate "vayishkav" as 'de-bedded' (he moved the bed from its place, the exact opposite of 'arranging the bed', which the word might also mean). And as a well-known precedent, he points to the word 'Lesharesh', which can mean to take root or to uproot.

*

Proclaimed Innocent

" and Yisrael heard, and the sons of Ya'akov were twelve" (Ibid).

Yisrael heard that Reuven did not sin, the Rosh explains, in which case the sons of Ya'akov remained twelve.

But if Reuven did not sin, what *did* he do, asks the Rosh?

He lay in Bilhah's bed for many nights, so that Ya'akov would be too embarrassed to do so. He meant it for the good, as the Gemara in Shabbos (55b) quotes him as having said 'If my mother's sister was my mother's rival, should my mother's sister's maidservant also become my mother's rival?' And what's more, he did it only because "the sons of Ya'akov were twelve" (i.e. all the children that Ya'akov was destined to father had been born).

This may not have been permitted, but Chalilah, that a son of Ya'akov should be guilty of incest!

***

Highlights from

Targum Yonasan

"And Eisav took his wives and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Cana'an, and he moved to another country, because he was afraid of Ya'akov his brother" (after the episode of Shimon and Levi) 36:6.

*

" Timna was a concubine of Elifaz, son of Eisav, and she bore to him Amalek; Elifaz was the colleague of Iyov " (36:12).

"And Ba'al Chanan bar Achbor died, and he was succeeded by Hadar he was the man who worked hard in the trade of hunting implements, from H]which he became rich and bought property. But this made him conceited and he declared 'What is silver and what is gold!' " (36:39).

"The chief of Magdiel, which was called by that name because the city was in fact, a strong fortress, alias the wicked Rome " (36:43).

***

the Ba'al ha'Turim

"Im Lavan Garti" (I sojourned with Lavan) 32:5.

The word "Garti" also appears in Tehilim (120:5) "Oyoh li ki garti Meshech " (Woe unto me for my drawn out sojourn ".

The fact that Ya'akov's descendants became strangers among the nations, was the result of Ya'akov's fear of Eisav (despite G-d's promise that He would protect him wherever he went), to the pint that he referred to him as his master (see Also Parshah Pearls 32:7).

*

"And I have oxen and donkeys" (32:6).

Ya'akov mentioned specifically these two species, because they symbolized Yosef (whom he would later refer to as 'ox' and 'donkey' respectively), the former, who was Eisav's Satan (see Rashi in Vayeitzei 30:25), and the latter, whose Torah-study would neutralize his power (as Yitzchak said in Parshas Toldos 'the voice is that of Eisav, whilst the hands are those of Eisav').

*

"Pen yovo vehikani" (Lest he come and smite me) 32:12.

The same word appears in Shmuel, where Golyas announced "Im yuchak lehilochem bi vehikani " (If he [Yisrael's champion] is able to kill me ).

Just as Ya'akov was afraid, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, so too, was David; Just as Ya'akov was pursued (by his brother), so too was David; Just as Ya'akov was saved from Eisav (by the Divine Hand), so too David saved from Golyas. Indeed, the Ba'al ha'Turim remarks, it was the merit of Ya'akov that stood David in good stead. And just as Ya'akov made war against Golyas, so too did Ya'akov prepare himself for war (See Rashi, Pasuk 9).

The Mitzvos

Mitzvah 78:

To Follow the Majority

It is a Mitzvah to follow the majority, inasmuch as should a dispute break out among the Chachamim concerning any Torah law, or regarding a personal (monetary) matter between two Jews, when the dispute occurs among the Dayanim of the town, that some declare the defendant guilty, whilst others claim that he is innocent, one always goes after the majority opinion, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:3) "Follow the majority to arrive at a decision". And it is based on this Pasuk that the Gemara says in Chulin (11a) 'Rov' (to go after the majority) is min ha'Torah. This ruling, it would seem, is confined to where the Torah-knowledge of the two disputing parties is equal, since to say that a small group of Torah scholars should not overrule a larger group of ignoramuses is inconceivable, even if the latter number the number of B'nei Yisrael who left Egypt. But when they are relatively equal in knowledge, the Torah teaches us here that the larger group is always closer to the truth than the smaller one, irrespective of how it appears to the listener.

This requirement however, does not apply to Beis-Din, where we ignore the superiority or inferiority of knowledge, but follow the majority at all costs. The reason for this is because the Torah is speaking about the Sanhedrin and it is therefore as if it had specifically commanded us to go after the majority of Dayanim whatever the circumstances, and besides, all the members of the Sanhedrin were great sages, and the difference in knowledge makes no difference.

*A reason for this Mitzvah* is that it reinforces our fulfillment of Mitzvos; because if we were commanded to observe the Torah according to our understanding of it, each person would claim that his interpretation is the correct one and that even if the entire world disagrees with him, he has no mandate to deviate from the truth as he himself perceives it. As a result would be havoc, in that the Torah would be splintered into many Toros, with each and every person ruling according to his personal opinion. Whereas now that we have been commanded to accept the opinion of the majority of Chachamim, we all share one and the same Torah, strengthening its observance, and we are not permitted to deviate from their opinion come what may. Consequently, by following their rulings, we fulfill the command of Hashem; and in the event of the Chachamim ruling in error, Chalilah, the sin is on them and not on us. And this explains the Gemara at the beginning of Horiyos, which rules that in the event that an individual acted upon the erroneous ruling of Beis-Din, then it is the Beis-Din who are obligated to bring a Korban Chatas, and not the individual (except under certain circumstances, as described there).

*Some Dinim of the Mitzvah* The differences regarding this majority between money matters and matters concerning the death-sentence, that the latter a larger majority than the former, and how many judges are required for the latter on account of it, as it is not befitting to sentence a person to death with two Dayanim who are a majority against one Chazal also said that the Dayanim who are involved in maters concerning life and death must have Semichah, which attests to the fact that they are wise and understanding, and that they are accomplished and worthy of carrying out anything that is necessary. We will not sentence people to death by means of people who are lacking in wisdom, lest they err in Din, for death has no compensation and when it comes to judging someone for the death penalty, the Chachamim have said that Dayanim who claim initially that the defendant is innocent, are not permitted to switch their claim, which is not the case by money matters When it comes to matters of life and Death, the Sanhedrin is obligated to begin the proceedings with the arguments that proclaim him innocent and that anybody, Rebbes and Talmidim (even though they not members of the Sanhedrin) are permitted to present arguments proving the defendant innocent and all other details, are discussed at the end of Sanhedrin.

*This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all time, to men and women alike. Whoever contravenes it and fails to follow the majority has negated an Asei, and his punishment is very great, since it is the pillar on which the Torah rests.

*

Mitzvah 81:

Not to Pervert the Judgement of a Rasha

*It is not permitted to pervert the judgement of one of the litigants, when it becomes known that he is a sinner*, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim "Do not pervert the judgement of a destitute person in his quarrel" (23:5). "Destitute" in this context refers to one who is destitute in Mitzvos, since if it referred to a person who was impoverished, it would be obvious that one may not exploit a man's impoverished state and steal from him what is rightfully his, and mentioning it would be superfluous. What the Torah must therefore be issuing a prohibition against a Dayan may concluding that, because a particular litigant is a Rasha, he must be lying. For judgement against a Rasha lies with G-d and not with the Dayanim. The Mechilta interprets the Pasuk in the same way.

*The reason for applying the law equally to everybody* is self-understood. *This Mitzvah applies everywhere* and at all times, to men but not to women (who are not eligible to judge). Anyone who contravenes the Din and perverts the judgement of a Rasha, has transgressed a Mitzvah of the King.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502


Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues


This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

http://www.shemayisrael.co.il
Jerusalem, Israel
732-370-3344

*